Prospect Showdown: Jason Heyward vs. Mike Stanton
This article should tell you all you need to know about Florida Marlins outfield prospect Mike Stanton and Atlanta Braves right field prospect Jason Heyward. What prospect comes out on top? Read on to find out…
Heyward – A big frame at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, but he looks leaner and there is more room to put on weight if needed.
Stanton – Lean and muscular at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Stanton looks like a wide receiver. His long legs allow him to take big strides and cover a lot of ground in the outfield.
Heyward – The 14th pick in the 2007 draft, Heyward signed for $1.7 million out of McDonough High School in Georgia. The 19 y/o primarily played last year in Single-A Rome before a late season promotion to A+ Myrtle Beach. Heyward started the 2009 season back in Myrtle Beach and has since been promoted to Double-A Mississippi.
Stanton – Drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft out of Sherman Oaks High School in California, Stanton received a signing bonus of $475,000, which looks like a steal at this point. Stanton — three months younger than Heyward — was also a star football player that had a chance to walk on to the USC football team while on a baseball scholarship or accept a football scholarship offer from UNLV and walk on to the baseball team.
Stanton started the season in A+ Jupiter and has since been promoted to Double-A Jacksonville.
By the Numbers
Heyward – The more advanced hitter between the two, Heyward possesses good pitch recognition and strikes a solid balance between being aggressive and working the count. This year, he’s seen an uptick in his walk percentage and his contact rate continues to be solid. The potential to hit for a high average is there for Heyward as is the potential to be an OBP machine as he continues to refine his plate discipline.
The one question mark for Heyward entering the season was his power production. While Heyward’s raw power is considered plus, it didn’t exactly manifest itself during games last season as his .161 ISO-power indicates, though he certainly flashed it.
That question has been answered this year as Heyward’s power has progressed quite nicely to say the least. His ISO-power in Myrtle Beach was .223 and he’s kept up the pace since his promotion.
Essentially, there is very little weakness possessed by Heyward from a numbers standpoint.
Stanton – An absolute masher in Single-A Greensboro last season, he hit 39 homeruns and totaled 68 extra base hits in 540 plate appearances. He ended the season with a .318 ISO-power, and while some of that came in a good hitter’s park, his road numbers were just as impressive as his numbers at home.
Stanton continued to mash in the much tougher Roger Dean Stadium, where home runs are very tough to come by. Stanton’s splits bear this out:
Home – 86 ABs, .198 ISO, 2 HRs
Away – 94 ABs, .362 ISO, 10 HRs
Stanton is one of the more fly ball oriented hitters in baseball. It’s much harder to hit for power if you consistently put the ball on the ground. The impressive thing about Stanton is that an astounding 26% of his fly balls became a homerun. It doesn’t matter what the level, that figure is excellent.
That number has dropped to around 15% this year, but we have to consider the park he played in as well.
Stanton has shown an improvement in plate discipline and pitch recognition as his career has progressed, but he still has work to do in order to make more contact. He still chases too many pitches out of the strike zone, especially when he’s behind in the count. It’s a reason he struck out in 28.3% of his plate appearances last season and while he lowered his K% all the way down to 21% in Jupiter, it has regressed back to 28% after his promotion to Double-A. Stanton’s propensity to strike out could put a cap on his batting average at the big league level.
The transition to Double-A hasn’t gone as smoothly for Stanton as it has for Heyward, but he’s more than holding his own.
Heyward and Stanton are both quick-twitch guys, able to generate an abundance of bat speed with quick and strong wrists. They don’t need to lengthen their swing in order to produce their desired bat speed.
On the left is Heyward from 2008 and on the right is Heyward’s draft video. Before I go into detail here, keep in mind that the 2008 clip is missing a couple frames and to synchronize them to contact, the draft version is further along in his swing.
Now, Heyward has maintained essentially the same swing he had in high school. The one noticeable change is the angle he positions his hands. The more recent version angles his hands so the bat is more wrapped behind his head. So as he loads his hands, he ends up in a position where the bat head’s path is shorter to the ball and where he’s generating the same amount of bat speed in a shorter period of time.
Heyward generates good torque and swings with much intent. He’s got excellent hand-eye coordination, which allows him to make consistent hard contact. When he’s able to get extension just after contact, the ball can go a long way. Problems arise when Heyward gets too handsy with his swing, getting too far out in front, which neutralizes a lot of his power. He’s at his best when he’s able to stay back and unload just prior to the ball arriving, which he’s done a much better job of doing this year.
*Credit to Minor League Baseball
One of Heyward’s best attributes is that he has outstanding plate coverage. He’s able to make solid contact with the ball in all quadrants of the strike zone. On the left you can see Heyward pull the hands in, keeping them inside the ball and pulling the pitch to right field. On the right we can see Heyward still pulling the ball into right field, but doing so on a pitch that’s on the lower right portion of the strike zone.
Stanton – As a much more unrefined player coming out of high school, Stanton has done a lot more work to his swing since being drafted.
Below we have three swings, the far left being Stanton’s draft video swing and the other two swings were made at different points of the 2008 season. I believe the swing on the far right is the most recent swing because Stanton doesn’t use a toe tap this year.
Let’s first compare the 2008 swings. Some differences I notice:
1. The hands are a bit lower on the far right
2. The timing mechanism…in the middle swing, Stanton uses a toe tap before taking a long stride. On the left, Stanton slightly rocks his body back to build up a little momentum and then takes a big step toward the pitcher, planting aggressively. This is more of a cosmetic observation and depends on the player’s preference.
The differences are much clearer when you compare Stanton’s 2008 swings to his draft video. Start with the angle of the back foot. Notice how the 2008 Stanton has turned his foot slightly inward, while the draft video shows Stanton’s back foot angled straight on or even slightly outward. The significance of this is that a back foot turned in helps load the hips and makes it easier for the body to move forward.
Absent in Stanton’s draft video is the aggressive stride as well as the body rock that allows Stanton to get a whole mess of momentum heading into foot plant. He’s much less efficient at carrying his weight forward.
When you at Stanton in 2008, he’s creating excellent torque on both swings. He’s able to build up his momentum on both swings. He’s using his entire body on both swings. The hands and hips he turns together using his front leg as a base. Watch how the back leg rotates in and forward — that’s a sign of an efficient hip rotation. The back leg turns and Stanton’s entire body is unleashed on the ball. Remember I talked about this when breaking down Hanley Ramirez’s swing. In Stanton’s draft video, the back leg to rotate forward, meaning he relied mostly on his arms to generate his power.
Heyward – A very good defensive player in right field, he does a deft job of reading the ball off the bat, which helps him make up for his average speed. His arm grades out as above average to plus.
Stanton – Has an advantage over Heyward by being able to play center field. Heyward can play center in a pinch, but isn’t viewed as an everyday center fielder. Like Heyward, Stanton possesses an above average to plus arm.
This is really a push. Both players are considered wise beyond their years and both put in the work it takes to be a great player. I might give Stanton a slight edge here because of how much progress he’s made in so little time as a professional. He’s showed an ability to not let adversity affect him when he struggled mightily in his debut season, while Heyward has yet to really deal with any adversity as a professional. He’s produced everywhere he’s been.
The Bottom Line
Stanton and Heyward are both elite prospects with All Star potential, but at this moment Heyward is probably the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He doesn’t seem to display a true weakness, while Stanton still must overcome his issues with contact. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Stanton has more upside, however.
Now, the one question I have is what if the Marlins put Stanton in center? Would Stanton in center be more valuable than Heyward in right? I think so, but it might be a moot point since Florida’s plan is to use Stanton in right. With that said, Heyward has to be considered the better prospect at this point because of his combination of upside and safety as a prospect. Both are tremendous talents, but Heyward is the surer bet to reach his potential.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed for updates on when new content is posted. You can also get updates in your inbox and receive extra prospect reports, article extensions, the reader mailbag, and more by using the form below to sign up for the free Baseball-Intellect Newsletter. Your e-mail will never be shared or sold.
For readers already using an RSS feed for site updates, you can skip the updates and sign up for just the Newsletter content by clicking here.
What to Do Next